Job: Foundations that Endure Calamity 

A missionary friend of mine spent years in a prison in China because he would not deny his Lord and would not flee when the communists took over. His possessions were stripped away, and the mental torture he endured brought him to the point where he couldn’t even form coherent thoughts.

“Lord,” he cried, “my whole being craves to worship you, yet my mind is so confused that I can’t even pray. If l stand in my cell, will you accept that as an act of worship?” Even though his mind wouldn’t function, he won the spiritual battle because he refused to doubt the character of God. He was absolutely invincible in the Lord.

Not many of us have had to endure the physical stress and mental torture of a prison cell or of being persecuted for our faith. But how many of us begin to doubt God’s love, complain about our situation, feel sorry for ourselves, or otherwise waver in our faith when we experience the stresses of life that are our common lot?

This is not to say that the crises we face are not real ones. The loss of a job, the death of a child, a serious accident or illness can happen to any one of us – and maybe already has – and can test the faith and endurance of even the stoutest heart. But our response in these times of calamity is not born overnight; rather, it is built over time in the way we face little disappointments, loss, sickness, frustration, rejection, pain.

Our society is quick to make heroes of media personalities – and just as quick to cut them down. Like children playing “He-man” and “She-ra,” we want instant solutions to our problems – and when they are not forthcoming, we blame the latest heroes we have created and toss them out.

Learning to Face Adversities with Faith and Courage 

But underneath, the world today is hungry for real heroes – people whose lives are built on a solid foundation, who do not waver when the going gets tough, who will stand by another in his time of weakness and say, “Have courage; God is faithful. I’ve been there, too.” These heroes of faith, however, do not appear in a flash of light, like cartoon heroes; they grow through facing the small adversities of life with eyes of faith.

In times of illness, anxiety, persecution, or sorrow, the Bible explains that how we cope depends on what we know about God. In Hebrews 11:1, faith is defined as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In other words, faith consists of our inner knowledge of the supernatural and the unseen, by means of which we can endure and continue in spite of difficult circumstances.

Throughout the Bible we see how God took hold of men or women during a time of crisis – whether personal or national – and made them heroes of the faith. Their struggles were written down for our benefit to help us discover the true character of God. Romans 4:23-24 says, “But the words … were written not for [Abraham’s] sake alone, but for ours also.”

One of the most dramatic accounts in Scripture of coping with crises is the story of Job. He exceeded all the other Bible heroes in the amount and suddenness of calamity that befell him. Here was a wealthy man, honest in all his dealings, the most respected man in the community. He was a godly man, with an enviable family of ten privileged children (though they were somewhat spoiled, with a weakness for food and festivities), for whom he expressed a great deal of ongoing spiritual concern and love.

And then suddenly, Job’s entire empire was wiped out. His flocks and herds were raided by robber bands, and his servants were killed. A great fire wiped out what wealth was left by the bandits. But as if that were not enough, all his sons and daughters were crushed to death when a fierce wind caused the house they were in to collapse. Finally, he developed painful boils all over his body, from his scalp to the soles of his feet. The most astonishing thing about this story, however, is that it appears that God allowed these calamities to happen to Job as a test of his faithfulness and a witness to Satan!

It is human nature to question suffering, and though the Book of Job answers quite a few of those questions, it raises still others. One question that is never answered in the biblical account of Job’s story is why his life was chosen as a battleground between God and Satan. Job struggled deeply with this question and others related to his great suffering. “Why me?” he cried out to God. “Why was I ever born?”

Though Job was baffled by this mystery, he did not let it destroy his faith. He allowed his suffering to refine his character so he could fight despair and cling to hope. Through it all, Job insisted on his righteousness before God, and he never once doubted the character of God.

The Prevalence of Doubt

Doubt is a basic part of the human personality. We have been created with a free will which allows us to question, to doubt, to discover for ourselves. Even as Christians, we occasionally doubt God’s Word – whether God has really said something or not. I firmly believe that God accepts our doubts. But one thing he won’t accept is doubts about his character. For that reason, the time we spend studying God’s Word should be devoted primarily to discovering his character. It’s interesting to study prophecy, but our interpretations may be in error. It’s interesting to work on deciphering the difficult doctrinal teachings of the Word, but again, we may make a mistake. A time may come when all those theories go up for grabs and everything we hold dear is taken away from us – our liberty, our Bible, our church – but no one can take away our fundamental trust in God and our understanding of who he is.

Job was a man who lost everything. He was even left all alone by his so – called friends as soon as his fortunes turned sour. “Job must be a terrible sinner,” they reasoned, “or else all this suffering would not have come upon him.” But Job was also a man who knew God. Even his great loss, his overwhelming sorrow, his agonizing pain could not shake his fundamental trust in who God is.

What Job Knew about God

At the height of the satanic attacks against Job, his friend Eliphaz said, “What do you know that we do not know? What do you understand that is not clear to us?” (Job 15:9). Although meant sarcastically, these questions were the turning point in the discourse. If we are sure of our salvation in Jesus Christ and sure of our way with God, people who don’t share this certainty will always attack and mock us.

But what did Job know about God that his accusers didn’t know?

1. He Knew God Was There

Seeing how devoted Job was to his family, the enemy hit hard at that very spot. Surely, Satan speculated, the loss of his family will alienate him from God. So Satan killed all of Job’s children. After that, the loss of Job’s wealth was probably incidental. But these disasters did not cause Job to curse God or to doubt his existence. After Satan’s attacks, “Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’”(Job 1:20-22).

In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. How could he worship in the context of such great anguish? This is very difficult for us to understand. But in spite of being a supremely devoted family man, the ultimate meaning in Job’s life had never been centered on his family or his wealth. Had it been, he probably would have been destroyed, as Satan anticipated. Instead, God had been the central focus for Job. God was still there, and that was enough for Job to hold onto.

In spite of his great anguish of heart, Job worshiped the Lord and declared (as he did throughout the whole discourse with his friends) his certainty that God was there. He did not allow the disasters, his pain, or his inability to understand what was happening to him to unravel his certainty of God’s existence.

2. He Knew God Was Righteous

Job was also strengthened by his vision of God’s righteousness and his own family’s need for forgiveness. Because of his awareness, he knew how to protect his family from condemnation. In fact, Job regularly prepared a sacrifice to the Lord, saying: “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts” (Job 1:5). This was a remarkable act, especially since his children were already grown. What a father he must have been!

I have five children, and occasionally I’ll manage to get them all together for a time of prayer and worship, but not very regularly. They are busy with their own lives and affairs. But Job was scrupulous about praying for his children, sacrificing a burnt offering for each one in case they had fallen away from God.

Sometimes we have an exaggerated idea of what it takes to be a hero of the faith – crossing dangerous borders, preaching to large crowds, winning whole nations for Christ. No, faithfulness begins at home. A hero is a father or mother who has children sanctified by the blood of the Lamb, meeting together with them at the cross!

3. He Knew God Accepted Him

There is a scene in chapter two of the Book of Job that I cannot fully explain. It took place in Heaven, with the angels and even the devil in attendance at God’s throne. “Have you seen my servant Job?” God asked Satan. “He is blameless and upright.” Later, Job’s friends questioned whether Job could possibly be upright (Job 8:6), not knowing that God had already declared that he was so.

How can anyone, stained every day by sin, possibly be blameless before God? By the blood of an atoning sacrifice. God shuns evil; Job knew this, so he submitted to regular cleansing, offering the sacrifices that looked forward to the fulfilling sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Before the hosts of Heaven, Job was declared to be unique in all the earth in maintaining his integrity. In other words, God said, “I’m proud of him.” This was not because Job was sinless, but because he was forgiven and covered by God’s righteousness.

Job knew this, too. He knew he was a sinful man, but he had kept his accounts straight with God. Even in the midst of his terrible troubles, Job was able to rest securely in God’s acceptance of him.

Isn’t it a good feeling to know that right now, because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God is proud of you? You and I have no righteousness in ourselves. But no matter how many fingers point at us, no matter how many storms try to beat us down, we are accepted by God, our sins covered by the blood of Jesus. Really taken to heart, wouldn’t that make anybody a hero of the faith?

Faith: The Answer to Fear

However, there was one weak point in Job’s life, one I hesitate to mention because it was so personal. But Job himself confessed that “the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me” (Job 3:25 KJV). Fear and faith can never be friends, and in the measure that God fills our hearts with faith, fear has to go. The same is true of love, which drives out hatred and doubt. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true: if we let fear rule our hearts, it chokes out faith.

Somewhere in all his uprightness, Job had a secret fear. It had lingered deep within his consciousness, gnawing away at his security in life. “Maybe I won’t have all this forever,” he thought. “Maybe these gifts of God – my beautiful family, my prosperity, my health, my standing in the community – will be taken from me. Will I be strong then? Will I be able to bear it?”

Do you know why I hesitate to be so personal? Because I had a great friend in the Lord, Corrie ten Boom, with whom I worked for twenty-five years. She was a courageous servant of God, a true heroine of the faith admired by millions through her books and films. Yet she said, “I have one fear: that I will have a stroke and won’t be able to communicate any longer. I’ll have to spend years in my bed like a vegetable, coming to an end the same way my mother did.”

That was the only fear I ever saw in Corrie, and that was exactly what happened to her.

Faith is the only answer to fear, and it must permeate every corner of our lives, including the way we are going to end this life. When we are full of faith, we can just shout at the devil that there’s nothing to be afraid of. There wasn’t anything to fear in Job’s life, either, because as the devil quickly pointed out, God had put a protective hedge of blessing around him, just as he does around us.

How could the removing of that hedge be explained to Job? It couldn’t, yet more than knowing some thing, Job knew some One. No matter what his friends (and his wife) said against him, Job declared that “I have not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10).

Millions of people today in countries where suffering is great have not denied the faithfulness of God, despite intense persecution for their belief. In the pressure cooker, you really come to know the One who loves you infinitely.

It Helps to Know What the End Will Be

What else did Job know that the others didn’t? In Job 19:25, he proclaimed, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” He believed with all his heart in God’s redemption, and he repeated his faith in the resurrection three times: “Yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes – I, and not another” (19:26b, 27 NIV).

Because of what he knew and the One he knew, Job could cope with all the suffering. Another life was to follow one where no enemy could intrude and no one could take away his joy. With a ringing proclamation of faith, he declared, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (Job 23:10 NIV).

What a tremendous message! Job recognized that God does test us, and he repeated the truth of what God had already declared – that Job was righteous. That was his testimony, as it should be ours. God says, “You are righteous in Christ,” and we should respond, “Yes, I am righteous because God declares it.”

That’s what the word “testimony”’ is all about: repeating what God has already said about me. Once I was a sinner, but the moment I admit it and seek forgiveness, asking Jesus to come into my heart and life, then I am no longer counted a sinner. From that moment on I am seen by God as righteousness, and God will treat me as such.

When Job’s friends asked repeatedly, “How can a man be righteous?” they were attempting to undermine the very basis of his faith. So Job returned again and again to the fact that he was righteous because of the sacrifice he believed in. The blood was shed for the remission of sins – Job’s included.

The Rewards of Faith

What was the final result when Job replaced his secret fear with an open declaration of faith? At the beginning of the story, he had seven sons and three daughters, along with 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 donkeys. He lost them all, without letting a single word of sin pass his lips. Afterward, God again blessed him with seven sons and three daughters, plus 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 donkeys – double the wealth with which he had started (see Job42). And Job lived a good, long life to enjoy his children’s children, even to great-great grandchildren.

Yes, God also gave him double the number of his children; the first ten were in Heaven, and Job knew it. You can take the silence of this verse as God’s approval of Job’s faith m the glorious resurrection. Can anyone be so rich as believing Christian parents?

Was the suffering worth it? We won’t be able to understand the full implications of those events until we reach Heaven, but think about this: the date of the Book of Job is unknown, but the context is patriarchal, possibly reflecting the time of Abraham. Consider these two great men of God. Suppose that in response to Job’s faithfulness under trial, God was touched and made a commitment to be more intimate with those who trusted in him. Could this be behind his saying, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Genesis 18:17).

God puts tremendous trust in his heroes of the faith enabling them to change the course of history not only on earth but also in heavenly realms. He places so much confidence in us that he gives us his Word and the responsibility to carry that Word, preach it, and most of all, live it before all the world, so others can come to know the God who is righteousness. 

Job has walked before us, a hero of the faith for today. His example stands beside us in our time of suffering, doubt, and struggle, saying, “Have courage; God is faithful. I’ve been there, too.” Job has shown us that no matter what losses we face, even when all else fails us God is there. And God has provided a way for us to stand before him, just as Job did, forgiven and fully accepted. We too can know that because of God’s redemption and the resurrection of Jesus, what may seem like the end of all earth’s pleasures and treasures is not the end at all.

Truly believing this will provide the answer to all our fears. Like Job, we too can be a hero of the faith, pointing the way to the true foundation for happiness and security: a relationship with God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.

This article is excerpted from A Time for Heroes, Chapter 1, by Brother Andrew with Dave and Neta Jackson, published by Servant Books, Ann Arbor, Michigan USA, © copyright 1988 by Open Doors International. 

Top image credit: illustration of Job raising his hands to God in the presence of his three companions, painting by Cleveland L. Woodward, © from  Used with permission.

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